Psychiatrist: Taking unprescribed meds for finals is dangerous

Psychiatrist: Taking unprescribed meds for finals is dangerous
Miller said that Adderall is also a common drug used on college campuses, but the side-effects are not what people think. (Photo source: WDAM archive)

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - College students in the Pine Belt are feeling the pressures of finals week, and some students are dangerously resorting to unprescribed drugs to get through.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Addictionologist Dr. Thomas Miller with the Pine Grove Behavioral and Addiction Services said many students he meets are taking unprescribed medication to get through finals.

"So, students are taking mainly the stimulants, right methylphenidate, which comes in different brands such as Ritalin and Concerta," said Miller. "And the amphetamines, which comes in brands such as Vyvanse or Adderall.

According to the American Addiction Center, Adderall is the brand name prescribed drug that is mainly used to increase focus and attention span in those suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Miller said that it is also a common drug used on college campuses, but the side-effects are not what people think.

"It's not really going to help you," Miller said. "There's no research to say that this is going to improve anything. There's strong evidence that the person will become psychologically dependent, meaning they feel they won't do well in the future unless they take the medicine."

There's a small chance that the drug may improve confidence, but the long-term side-effects of taking the drug unprescribed are far worse, according to Miller.

"They can have loss of appetite, trouble with their sleep and anxiety increase," said Miller.

He said there's also a risk of addiction when taking these drugs unprescribed.

Shayla Strickland, a student on the University of Southern Miss campus, said she's come across coworkers who've become dependent on the drug.

"I actually heard two girls that I work with said that they cannot study unless they have Adderall," Strickland said.

According to the American Addiction Center, long-term side-effects of Adderall abuse include:

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Aggression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

Miller said the best way to get through finals is to get a good night's rest.

"Teenagers and young adults need about eight hours of sleep," said Miller. "So, turning off the social media and making sure they get that eight to 10 hours of sleep would be the best thing to do."